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vital: Daily intake's a salt shaker.

Byline: By Craig McQueen

WHEN thinking of the amount of salt we eat, it's common to consider the obvious culprits such as crisps and chips.

But as much as four-fifths of our daily intake comes from hidden sources such as processed food, which often leaves people shocked athow much they are consuming.

While the body needs about 1.4 grams of salt daily to keep our fluids balanced and enable our cells to use nutrients, the average intake in the UK is about nine grams a day.

And that's bad news because too much salt is linked with an increase in blood pressure, heightening our risk of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.

So with this being Salt Awareness Week, it's the perfect time to see if changes to your diet could help could help you get down to the recommended daily limit of six grams.

If we reduce our salt intake by about 2.5 grams a day, it can reduce our risk of having a stroke or heart attack by one quarter.

As a population, for each gram of salt we cut out of our national average intake, we will save more than 6500 lives each year. We will also prevent more than 6500 heart attacks and strokes annually.

It is widely recognised that a diet high in salt can lead to other problems such as osteoporosis, cancer of the stomach and obesity as well as exacerbating the symptoms of asthma.

So if you need to find out how much salt you're eating, and how you can cut down, here's a guide to where you should start looking.

BREAD

Anormal slice of white can pack in 0.5 grams of salt. So if you have a slice of toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and some bread with dinner, it will amount to athird of your daily allowance.

CAKES

Being sweet rather than savoury, you might not expect a slice of cake to contain much salt, but you'd be wrong. A wedge of Madeira cake, for example, will contain 0.3 grams. That's five per cent of your daily intake, so having that second piece might not be a good idea.

CEREAL

Many of the cereals we eat each morning can be surprisingly high in salt. For example, a serving of corn flakes, complete with skimmed milk, contains 0.7 grams. That's more than 10 per cent of your daily intake. Alternatives such as Shredded Wheat contain far less.

READY MEALS

Processed foods are always bad news for your salt intake so the more you eat, the more you're putting your health at risk. A frozen chicken curry with rice may sound modest, but it could contain two grams of salt, which is athird of your daily intake. Other types of ready meal can contain similar levels.

BACON

Another breakfast favourite packed with salt. Two rashers will easily contain 1.5 grams - a quarter ofyour daily intake - so if you're peckish and opt for a couple more, that salt will very quickly add up.

CHICKEN

While fresh, lean pieces can be healthy, especially when grilled, the same can't be said for processed varieties which many of us eat regularly. One Chicken Kiev in breadcrumbs will contain more than a gram of salt, while a serving of chicken nuggets contains just under a gram.

CHEESE

It's not just processed cheeses that are unhealthy. While one cheese string contains nearly half agram of salt, which is bad enough, a portion of feta can contain a massive three grams. That's half your daily intake. Choose home-grown types such as Cheshire, Wensleydale and Lancashire instead.

DESSERTS

As with cakes, you'd imagine sugar would be the thing to worry about here, but salt is a problem too. A portion of Angel Delight with semi-skimmed milk contains half a gram of salt, while a portion of jam roly poly and custard contains one gram.

CRISPS

A packet of crisps is one snack everyone would expect to be high in salt. And that's certainly the case, with your average bag containing about half a gram. Unsalted and baked varieties do, at least, offer a healthier option.

SAUCES

If your culinary habits involve smothering food in ketchup, you're probably not aware of how much salt you're eating. A 15ml serving of tomato ketchup contains a shocking 0.5 grams of salt. The same goes for many other sauces you reach for without thinking about it.

For more information, visit www.actiononsalt.org.uk and www.salt.gov.uk

CAPTION(S):

SHAKE UP CALL: Cutting back on salt will lessen health dangers PICTURE: REX FEATURES; UNHEALTHY START: Bacon; SALT SHOCK: Madeira cake
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 2, 2009
Words:776
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